Nancy Armstrong

Nancy Armstrong

Gilbert, Louis, and Edward Lehrman Distinguished Professor of English

External address: 
304C Allen Bldg, English Dept., Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708-0015
(919) 668-0314
Office Hours: 
Mondays 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.


Nancy Armstrong has served as editor of the journal Novel: A Forum on Fiction since 1996 and serves as co-organizer of The Novel Project at Duke, a faculty research seminar. Her scholarship explains how novels imagine a world that can be inhabited (or not) in specific ways by historically and culturally variable readerships. Currently focused on the contemporary novel, she continues to address questions of how modern cultures imagine themselves as a political society: Have, do, or can novels imagine alternative social formations?  What narrative mechanisms make it possible for them to do so?  How do novels presume to change their readers in the process?  How do these "arguments" against the status quo engage political theories that attempt the same feat? Can any such alternative leave the formation we call "the family" intact?

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin - Madison 1977

  • B.A., State University of New York - Buffalo 1966

  • Undergraduate, Biology, Wellesley College 1956 - 1958

Armstrong, Nancy, and Leonard Tennenhouse. Novels in the Time of Democratic Writing. Haney Foundation, 2017.

Tennenhouse, L., and N. Armstrong, editors. The Ideology of Conduct: (Routledge Revivals) Essays in Literature and the History of Sexuality. Routledge, 2014.

Armstrong, N., editor. Theories of the Novel Now, I, II, III. Vol. 42.2, 42.3, 43.1, 2011.

Armstrong, N., and W. Montag, editors. The Future of the Human. Vol. 2–3, 2009.

Kastan, D. S., and N. Armstrong, editors. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Armstrong, N. How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism 1719-1900. Columbia University Press, 2005.

Armstrong, N. Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism. Harvard University Press, 1999.

Armstrong, N., and L. Tennenhouse. The Imaginary Puritan: Literature, Intellectual Labor, and the Origins of Personal Life. University of California Press, 1992.

Armstrong, N., translator. Deseo y ficción doméstica: Una Historia Política De La Novela. Universitat de València, 1991.


Armstrong, N. “Other Women: The Writing of Race, Class, and Gender 1832-1898, by Anita Levy.” Signs, vol. 18, no. 2, University of Chicago Press, 1993, pp. 433–38.

Armstrong, N. “Adoption and the Construction of Kinship in Late Imperial China, by Ann Waltner.” Signs, vol. 18, no. 2, University of Chicago Press, 1993, pp. 433–38.

Armstrong, N. “Mother Midnight: Birth, Sex, and Fate in Eighteenth Century Fiction (Defoe, Richardson, and Sterne) by Robert A. Erickson.” Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, pp. 264–68.

Armstrong, N. “The Modernist Madonna: Semiotics of the Maternal Metaphor by Jane Van Buren.” Signs, vol. 18, no. 2, University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 433–38.

Armstrong, N. “Repression in Victorian Fiction: Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens by John Kucich.” Nineteenth Century Literature, vol. 44, no. 4, University of California Press, 1987, pp. 556–60.

Armstrong, N. “Victorian Women's Freedom: Marriage, Freedom, and the Individual.” Victorian Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 292–284.

Armstrong, N. “Charlotte Bronte and Sexuality, by John Maynard.” Victorian Studies, vol. 29, no. 3, Indiana University Press, 1986, pp. 483–85.

Armstrong, N. “Sexuality and Victorian Literature.” Victorian Studies, vol. 29, no. 3, The University of Tennessee Press, 1984, pp. 483–85.

Armstrong, N. “The Pivot of the World: Photography and Its Nation by Blake Stimson.” Modernism/Modernity, vol. 14, no. 2, Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 382–84.


Armstrong, Nancy. “The Migrant Novel: on becoming what we are not.Polygraph 27, 2019, pp. 67–67.

Armstrong, N., and L. Tennenhouse. “Balibar and the Citizen Subject.” Just Like a Woman:  Balibar on the Politics of Reproduction, edited by W. Montag and H. Elsayed, Edinburgh University Press, 2017, pp. 284–308.

Armstrong, N., and L. Tennenhouse. “How to Imagine Community Without Property.” De Homenagem a Maria Irene Ramalho Santos:  American Literature In a Comparative Context., Impressa da Universidade de Comimbra, 2016.

Tennenhouse, N., and N. Armstrong. The Network Novel and How It Unsettled the Domestic Fiction. Edited by S. Arata et al., Blackwell’s, 2014, pp. 103–20.

Armstrong, N. “On Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, 24 February 1871.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, edited by D. Felluga, 2013.

Armstrong, N. “The Sensation Novel.” The Oxford History of the Novel in English Volume 3: The Nineteenth-Century Novel 1820-1880, edited by J. Kucich and J. B. Taylor, vol. 3, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 137–53.

Armstrong, N. “The Other Side of Modern Individualism: Locke and Defoe.” Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity, edited by Z. Meer, Lexington Books, 2011, pp. 111–20.

Armstrong, N. “When Sexuality Meets Gender in the Victorian Novel.” The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, edited by D. David, Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 97–124.

Armstrong, N. “Afterword.” Modernist Star Maps, edited by Jonathan Goldman and Aaron Jaffe, Ashgate, 2010, pp. 237–44.

A Companion to Jane Austen. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Crossref, doi:10.1002/9781444305968. Full Text


Armstrong, N. “Why Looking Backward Is Necessary to Looking Forward.” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 47, no. 1, Mar. 2019, pp. 123–35. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S1060150318001419. Full Text

Armstrong, N. “The Contemporary Disposition of the Novel.” Continental Thought and Theory, vol. 2, no. 1, 2019, pp. 3–27.

Armstrong, N. “Waiting for Foucault.” Mlq, no. Special Issue, Desire and Domestic Fiction after Thiry Years, 2019.

Armstrong, Nancy. ““What Use Is Althusser?”.” Cultural Critique, vol. 103, no. 1, Project Muse, 2019, pp. 13–18. Crossref, doi:10.1353/cul.2019.0013. Full Text

Armstrong, N. “Afterword: Waiting for Foucault.” Modern Language Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 37–49. Scopus, doi:10.1215/00267929-7247269. Full Text

Armstrong, N. “Looking Backward: the Victorian Origins of the Neoliberal Household.” Victorian Literature and Culture, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2019, pp. 123–123.

Marx, J., and N. Armstrong. “Introduction: How do novels think about neoliberalism?Novel, vol. 51, no. 2, Aug. 2018, pp. 157–65. Scopus, doi:10.1215/00295132-6845994. Full Text

Armstrong, N. “Disavowal and domestic fiction: The problem of social reproduction.” Differences, vol. 29, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 1–32. Scopus, doi:10.1215/10407391-6681626. Full Text

Armstrong, N., and John Marx. “How do Novels Think About Neo-liberalism?Novel: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 52, no. 2, Duke University Press, 2018, pp. 157–68.

Armstrong, N., and W. Montag. “Are novels literature?Novel, vol. 50, no. 3, Nov. 2017, pp. 338–50. Scopus, doi:10.1215/00295132-4194920. Full Text